Former MSA Vice President Helena Kooi sat in the Center for Student Involvement writing a paper for one of her classes when she saw her name on the list of Mizzou 39 on Feb. 4.
The 39, selected annually by the Mizzou Alumni Association, recognizes MU’s outstanding seniors. The number of honorees reflects the year of MU’s founding in 1839.
Kooi said it had just been a normal day until she found out the news.
“Grateful is the best way to describe how I felt when I found out I was selected to be a member of the 2013 class of Mizzou 39,” Kooi said. “I am incredibly honored to be part of such a distinguished group of people.”
Honorees are selected through a two-step process of application reviews and interviews, MAA Coordinator of Student Programs Aly Friend said. About 200 students applied to have their name on the list.
A panel of three judges read through and scored each application, and the first round of cuts was made based on those scores. The students who made it through the first round then met with a second panel of three judges for their individual interviews.
The scores from both sections of the process were then totaled and students with the highest scores were awarded a spot in the prestigious group.
“This year we have a unique and diverse class that is representative of the entire Mizzou community,” Friend said.
The students on the list are extremely involved on campus and range from athletes and marching band members to Summer Welcome leaders, she said.
Political science major Lauren Damico participated in Mizzou Alternative Spring Break and was a member of the Missouri Students Association executive cabinet and Pi Beta Phi sorority.
She said she has her father to thank for always pushing her to be her best, and her mentor, religious studies assistant teaching professor Bob Flanagan, helped her realize what she wanted to make of her life.
“My mentor helped me to realize how I wanted to lead my life,” Damico said. “He taught me to make every day an opportunity to learn.”
Kooi also credited part of her success to her mentor David Rielley, senior coordinator of New Student Programs. Kooi worked with Reilley for two years as a Summer Welcome leader and said he helped her develop her character and leadership skills.
“Like all good mentors, he has challenged me to be the best I can be,” she said.
Journalism major Samantha Green said earning a spot in the Mizzou 39 was a dream come true but was also completely unexpected. Green, who serves as president of Sigma Sigma Sigma sorority, said she only regrets not getting involved earlier in her college career.
“I wish I would have jumped in sooner my freshman year,” Green said. “I was hesitant about involvement at first.”
The seniors all have plans for the near future.
Kooi said she is planning to study abroad this summer and get a job, but hopes to attend graduate school in the near future.
“My main goal is to attend law school in Chicago in the next few years,” she said.
Green plans to begin law school at MU in the fall.
Damico, on the other hand, is planning on joining U.S. Air Force Officer Training School.
The 39 seniors will be recognized during the MU basketball game against the University of Mississippi on Saturday and again in a ceremony at the Reynolds Alumni Center later that day.